As the scope and complexity of pharmacy services has increased in recent years, so too has the need for highly qualified and specialized Pharmacy Consultants. Interested parties should exercise due diligence in the selection of a consultant to assure that their specific needs will be met. Consultants may be the biggest asset a pharmacy business can have and should be an integral part of most pharmacy service in all settings.
The Drug Control Program cannot recommend or endorse any particular consultant, however we can offer some criteria that should be considered when selecting one. You should first determine what type of consultant you need. There are basically four types of consultants: Regulatory, Quality, Technical, and Clinical. The following is a brief description of each specific consultant type and their areas of expertise.
Regulatory (local, State, and Federal)
A consultant of this type should be knowledgeable about all the agencies, laws and regulations that govern the area of practice or industry for which consultation is needed. This type of consultant does not need to be a pharmacist but should have knowledge and experience in writing policies and procedures for health care facilities in order to ensure adherence to applicable state and federal requirements.
The individual should have an excellent understanding of the standards of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO) and a working knowledge of the principles of quality assurance. The consultant should be a Pharmacist with direct experience in community, hospital or long term care pharmacy.
Technical consultants have expertise in systems, processes and equipment. Technical consultants should demonstrate a working knowledge of pharmacy software and are particularly valuable to institutions developing a pharmacy data base.
Clinical consultants are generally pharmacists or medical professionals with extensive experience with drug therapies and/or disease states. This type of consultant usually has expertise in a specialized area of practice such as pediatric oncology or geriatrics. Clinical consultants often serve on Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committees.
Questions to ask
Before hiring a consultant, registrants should determine the consultant's specific area of expertise in dealing with problems that may arise. Questions that should be asked of consultants include but are not limited to:
- How long has the consultant been working in a specialized area?
- What is the consultant's current level of knowledge and what professional degrees and continuing education credits have they earned in their specialized field of consulting?
- Which professional organizations is the consultant a current member of?
- What applicable licenses does the consultant have?
- Has the consultant published any articles in professional or clinical practice journals?
- Will the consultant provide a list of previous or current clients one can reference?
- Has the consultant ever given any professional presentations specific to the area of interest?
To be an effective consultant, one must be a good communicator. Try to determine if the consultant is an effective communicator by asking questions. Be sure your questions are answered and the answers are clear and understandable.
Contact previous clients to ask if the consultant accomplished their goals and if they would use the consultant again. If so, ask if the consultant completed the project in a reasonable time frame.
Finally, make sure to obtain an itemized list of the cost of providing consulting services, including hourly wages, travel and other incidentals, as well as a projected total cost of such services.